You've done all the hard work winning the new client... Now what?
Onboarding your new clients is the key to a successful relationship for both you and them.
We recently caught up with Kieran Phelan from Cloud 360 Accounting who has completely streamlined his 'never perfect' onboarding process to align with the values of his firm.
It's a great approach he's taken and one we wanted to highlight as part of our #learnfromyourpeers campaign.
You can read or watch the interview below (and even access the workflow template Kieran uses in his firm to onboard new clients!)
Tell us about yourself...
My name's Kieran Phelan. I am the CEO and founder of Cloud 360 Accounting. We are based in Derry in Northern Ireland, and we were Northern Ireland's first ever Xero advisors way back in 2010. Currently, we are a team of six in total and we work with around about 120 clients at the moment. We provide them with a general range of compliance services in terms of their year-end accounts, their tax returns, their VAT to payroll. And we have a number of those clients who we provide regular, what's commonly known as advisory services, but it's that we get into the entry-level stuff, which is your management reporting, budgeting and cash flow forecasting.
What approach do you take to new client onboarding and service delivery?
We have a very systematic approach in terms of client onboarding and we pride ourselves on what we're doing and how we're doing it. And that's coming from some of the feedback we've had in relation to new clients who do come on board with us. Even just today I've had a client onboarding session; so that was a discovery call with a client who has completed the normal procedures with us before we speak to them. And at the end of the call, my common question is, "Is there anything else I can answer for you now that will help you to understand what it is that we're providing and proposing for you, and that'll help you through the signup process?" And that's a nice sort of leading question as well, based on everything else we've done, because it's like "Is there anything preventing you from signing up now? Let's deal with that straight away."
And the feedback we got then was, "Look, everything you've done so far in terms of how you've onboarded me and how you've asked me all the questions, how you've collected data and information, and how you've gone everything and wrote it down via using GoProposal for all this, is very clear and easy for them to understand. So no, that's fine. Send it through and we'll get things signed up."
Our process in terms of all of that is we have a step-by-step process and we actually have things done on Canva, which we send to people whenever they contact us to say, "Okay, thanks for contacting us. This is the five-step process that we have on our website that you're going to now go through as part of the journey to sign up as a client, and this is why you were going to do these things as well." So it's all about asking them to fill out an overall assessment to make sure that we're both a good fit for each other.
Once we decide that they are going to be a good fit for us in terms of what their business is all about and what their aims and objectives are, and a part of that is we like to see as well the clients are interested in growing and expanding and scaling to some kind of level because then we can offer them more services, which is going to help them in that journey. Once we carry out that assessment, we have a discovery call and ask them some more questions around that, and that can also interlink with a strategy call, which is really just giving them their service breakdown through GoProposal, and then waiting through for them to approve and to sign up.
We have a lot of things connected. We have a few things through Zapier and few things then connected automatically out of GoProposal, and one of the things we do connect as well is Pixie. So we do have this zap going from GoProposal to Pixie for new clients who are signing up, and that pushes them from it automatically into Pixie so that we can start creating the new client record and data on Pixie for onboarding them. And obviously, the services that are providing as well, we get all that sort of connected through in terms of the various links as well. We even have a link as soon as they sign up which pops up to say, "Look, now you're into signing up for GDPR, can you please complete this form?" And when they click submit on that, it's okay, "Now you're a new client. Just give us all your standard information and attach documents and ID stuff and so on as well."
So it's something that I'm never finished with. It's never the complete package, and someday I'll look at it and think, "I think I'll tweak this one part of it," and connect this bit out a new button somewhere. Because I think it's such an important part of growing and scaling and being up to date as a business, that it can never be the finished article. And also never forgetting of course that the technology is always changing, so somewhere along the lines there'll be a deeper integration of some sort that'll mean, "Now I need to change this little bit." But we're always happy with where we're at at this point in time, but we always keep focused on it. So that's what we pride ourselves on and it seems to be working in terms of client signals as well.
How do your internal values impact your approach to new software?
We do have a set of values within Cloud 360 Accounting, and one of the things we do and try to achieve all the time is we always focus on what our deliverables are. So I try teach the team that whenever you're dealing with a client, and that might be emails back and forward or it might be having a phone call or a Zoom call, always bear in mind that the client needs your help for something and they need a deeper understanding of where things are. And we totally appreciate that not every client fully understands all the intricacies of accounting and tax, so we always try to talk in their language.
We always try and focus on four particular deliverables, which is we use hashtags for these as well on our social media, which is make more money, save time, better systems, peace of mind. So always try to achieve one of those deliverables whenever you're dealing with every client, every time that you're speaking to them. It's usually kind of easy for us to do that because a lot of those things are what we take for granted in what we do in service delivery, but we also try to make sure that we communicate that for the client in such a way that they know that that's what we're doing. We're trying to help you make more money, which might be saving some money on your tax bill so you've more money in your own pocket, or we're saving you time by let us do this thing for you, or better systems such as we'll connect new apps in and make things a lot more automated, and so on. So it's easy for us to do that, but you have to really stress that that's what it's all about as well.
So those are the four main deliverables. In terms of our overall core values within the overall team, we actually base it on Cloud at 360. So its client needs are, first and foremost, we listen to what your hopes and dreams are, we always offer support to you and your team, understand your business and personal goals, and deliver more than expected every time. And then 360 is about always looking at the past, present, and future aspects of your business, so we have that nicely on a graphic on the wall as well. So it's useful to get into those things but always to try and stick firm with them, even when times are tough.
We know it can be difficult for clients at times. We know clients can present us with really big challenges. Some clients come back and complain about something or another they're not happy about, and it's generally not to do with the service; it's to do with the understanding of something. So I always try and get the team to bear that in mind when they're dealing with their clients as well.
How important have your internal values been in getting your team to 'buy in' to your vision?
It's always a challenge in terms of keeping the team and the culture and the core values all aligned because at the end of the day, clients are humans, we're all humans, and everybody can have a bad day from time to time. But it's important to have those core values in place, and I think set up graphically so that even for myself when I'm having a hard day and I'm having to deal with some difficult cases or have some tricky conversations, that it's just reminding yourself why you're doing what you're doing and what it is in terms of the service you're trying to deliver and how it benefits the client as well. No matter what the conversation is, keep those things in mind. So it's really important, I think, in this day and age to be focused on those things.
You have to be an outward-looking business, as opposed to inward-looking. Before I set up Cloud 360 Accounting, I worked for a couple of accounting firms, and now when I look back I can see they were quite inward-looking, always looking at what they were doing and how they should do it, and clients almost should just comply with that. The world has changed so much, and I think having core values and culture which is outward-looking and thinking about what can we do for our clients is absolutely imperative in this day and age.
Do you want to learn how Pixie helped Kieran at Cloud 360 Accounting to standardise their workflows to help them scale-up?
"Its definitely improved our efficiency and reduced the time spent delegating processes. Growing and expanding the team is easier now that we have processes in place for people to follow."